Thanks for keeping the memory of this family alive. I have studied this case because the killers were never identified and my brother, Ken Juedes, was murdered in his home in 2006 less than 10 miles away. Ken’s case also remains unsolved. Your summary is very well written and highly accurate. The only fact I questioned was whether Kenny worked at a mill. I had thought he worked at a cheese factory.
I did some additional research on the case after reading Stephenson’s book. In fact, I called the Milwaukee office where he worked and talked to him about the case. I also talked with members of Jacobs’ family. There were a number of aspects of this case that made me question if all leads had been fully investigated by the detectives. At Jacobs’ trial, the defence brought forth a witness who claimed that he had purchased cocaine from Randy. This is plausible because the area was in the middle of a drug crises at the time. Unfortunately, the Kunz family was not the only family to have been murdered in their rural Central Wisconsin home during this period. Jacobs’ defence attorney tried, unsuccessfully, to highlight one of these other, similar, fatal home invasions just prior to the Kunz family murder in a pre-trial motion.
The fact that there appeared to have been a meeting between Randy and the driver of another car in the isolated Kunz garden just prior to the murder added to that speculation. It was determined that money was stolen from the house at the time of the murder and that robbery could have been at least a partial motivator. The money referred to in your summary above was found during the crime scene investigation in the form of uncashed checks and small amounts of cash left, apparently forgotten, in the messy interior of the house. It was widely known that Helen kept a large roll of cash in a drawer and that horde of money was never located after the murder.
There was also another fact that was never fully explored at trial. The Kunz farm was located near a rural intersection. On the night of the murder, and at about the time that it was estimated that the murders occurred, a woman driving home came to this intersection and she stopped, before continuing through the intersection and driving past the Kunz house. She noticed that there was a car parked by the side of the road across the intersection, facing away from the Kunz house. The car had a spotlight mounted on it and, if I remember correctly, it was mounted on the right side of the car. Although spotlighting deer is not unheard of, the spotlights used for this purpose are typically handheld and not mounted and then only during deer hunting season. This murder occurred in mid summer.
The woman said she continued through the intersection and passed this parked car. When she came close to the car, a spotlight was shone in her face so that she could not identify who was in the car. She noticed in her mirror, however, that after passing the car it turned around and followed her as she passed the Kunz farm but then stopped when she got far enough past the Kunz home.
I think these facts could present an interesting, albeit highly speculative, scenario for this crime.
If testimony of the witness seems credible given the amount of drug activity in the area at the time and his lack of gain or relation to the defendant then the other facts support the possibility that this was a drug deal gone bad. Stephenson claimed that the witness was later convicted of perjury but I got a copy of the court records and he was actually convicted for writing a bad check.
You are correct that Kenny was of low IQ, but Randy was of normal intelligence. If Randy began selling drugs, then his problem would be lack of contacts to sell too. Kenny, however, would have had a whole factory to sell too. So it seems plausible that Randy might have enlisted Kenny to sell some of his drugs to Kenny’s coworkers. The meeting in the garden may have been payment time when Randy’s supplier wanted payment for the drugs that Randy had sold.
The problem would have been that Randy would have not have had all of the money if Kenny was selling at the factory and would have had to have waited for Kenny to arrive home from work to get the money necessary to pay off his supplier.
But Kenny didn’t come home from work that night. From Kenny’s description of his activities that night, he bought an enormous amount of fireworks, which he never set off, and then went to a bar and bought more. Kenny never explained where the money he used to buy the fireworks and the money he spent at the bar came from. After leaving the bar, then Kenny chose not to go home but went back to his factory and slept in his car that night.
Again, this is highly speculative, but if Kenny had sold some of Randy’s drugs and gotten cash from the deals, he may not have been responsible enough to understand the consequences of spending it. People described him as being “childlike.” Like a kid in a candy store, Kenny may have gone to buy some fireworks and gotten swindled into buying the remaining inventory, which the sellers would have been anxious to unload. After spending more at the bar, Kenny would no longer have the money he needed to give to Randy and, knowing that Randy would be upset, may have chosen not to face the music until the following morning.
Meanwhile, Randy would have waited with Helen and the killers for Kenny to come home – which he never did. Probably after the woman drove past and the killers became impatient, they would have decided to get payment from the “wad” of cash that these people had so religiously saved. There is no doubt that a fight broke out inside the house because Randy’s body showed evidence of it. If the Kunz family tried to protect themselves, it may have ended up in gunfire and all witnesses would have had to have been eliminated.
Why would Helen have been singled out for additional pain and punishment? The Kunz family, and Helen specifically, were spurned by a number of people in the area for an incident that happened when Helen was a young girl. Although she had two sons, she never married. The first son, Kenny, was born when she was quite young and she identified the father as a neighbouring farmer and claimed that he had raped her. The father denied the accusation and there was never any evidence to support Helen’s claim. In spite of the lack of evidence, the father was convicted and the family was destroyed. No one in the area seemed to believe Helen’s story and thought that the father had been Helen’s sibling and that Helen had lied to protect her brother. Memories live long in that area and her added punishment on that night may have been considered retaliation. I believe that a cut in her shirt also suggested that she was stabbed at some point.
Again, thanks for remembering the deaths of these poor people. I am on Facebook if you wish to contact me further about these homicides.